by Lesle Knop
Graduation season is here. Smart young people will commence their new lives, taking first steps toward their future. Valedictorians will “say farewell” (since that’s what the Latin “vale dicere” means) to their fellow students. Speakers will encourage, enlighten and applaud the successes of the graduates. They will ask them to remember how they got here and who helped them along the way.
My niece “walked the hill” and her parents and younger sisters watched her receive her diploma. So proud! It’s a joyous thing to witness a family’s celebration to mark these passages.
Catholic families recognize the important role that their faith plays in the lives of their children. Our Catholic children are nurtured, guided and loved into their teenage years with the help of our priests, lay ministers, educators and volunteers.
After the graduations, summer begins — and many families will plan family reunions. Perhaps we should plan parish reunions, too. I think that within each parish is also a vibrant heritage that could be celebrated. The legacy of parish families should be honored and remembered, and the lessons they taught us passed along to the next generation.
Who were the people whose names are inscribed on all those stained-glass windows? Are their descendants living among us? Why did they give so generously to build the church we pray in today?
Some parishes have family heritage picnics. They decide on a time and place. It could be in someone’s backyard or in the city park. Emphasize the spirituality of the picnic, but also the fun and food. Ask that people bring artifacts from their family to show our common heritage of faith — a Communion book, a Latin rite missal, a cherished rosary, statue or picture of a saint. Volunteers can plan for refreshments and prayer time. Family members, young and old, can help with games (and make sure accessibility for disabled is considered.)
Leaving a legacy when we say farewell is not always in the form of a will or estate gift. Leaving a legacy is passing along the faith — not only in our families, but in our communities.
Christian stewards understand that all that we have in this life is God’s gift. Stewards recognize also that those who surround us in faith, and those who have gone before us, help us on our journey to know, love and serve God.